The Central Park jogger case divided New York City at the end of the 80s. A group of young men attacked, raped and sodomized a complete stranger, Trisha Meili, leaving her in a coma for 12 days. Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana and Korey Wise, were convicted. Because of the press, it became embedded in the minds of New Yorkers, and beyond. Donald Trump put out $85,000 full-page ads calling for New York to reinstate the death penalty. Almost to this day, the president states with conviction that those Five Harlem teenagers are guilty. But the Central Park Five didn’t do it. Filmmaker Ava DuVernay is developing a limited series with Neflix that will examine their conviction and exoneration.
The Central Park Five will be a four-episode mini-series spanning from when each of the Central Park Five were first questioned to the settlement they reached with the city of New York in 2012, Variety reports.
This is the second project DuVernay, who will write and direct the miniseries, secured with Netflix. She helmed the 2016 private prison exposé 13th, which was nominated for an Oscar for best documentary feature.
“I had an extraordinary experience working with Netflix on 13th and am overjoyed to continue this exploration of the criminal justice system as a narrative project with Cindy Holland and the team there,” DuVernay said in a statement.
“The story of the men known as the Central Park Five has riveted me for more than two decades. In their journey, we witness five innocent young men of color who were met with injustice at every turn — from coerced confessions to unjust incarceration to public calls for their execution by the man who would go on to be the president of the United States.”
The five men were tried and convicted of on charges of assault, robbery, riot, rape, sexual abuse, and attempted murder in two separate trials in 1990. They were sentenced to 5 to 15 years. Four of the convictions were appealed and affirmed.
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Convicted serial rapist and murderer Matias Reyes confessed to the rape in 2002, it was confirmed by DNA evidence. District Attorney Robert Morgenthau withdrew the charges and the original convictions were vacated in 2002. The men sued New York City in 2003. Then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn’t support settlements. The city, under Mayor Bill de Blasio, settled the case for $41 million in 2014.
The crime spawned use of the term “wilding,” which is the unprovoked gang assault on a stranger. Ken Burns directed a longform PBS documentary on the case in 2012.
“This is one of the most talked-about cases of our time, and Ava’s passionate vision and masterful direction will bring the human stories behind the headlines to life in this series,” Netflix Vice President of Original Content Cindy Holland said in a statement.
“After powerfully reframing the public conversation about criminality and injustice in 13th, Ava now turns a new lens to a case that exposes deep flaws in our criminal justice system.”
The series is being executive produced by Jeff Skoll and Jonathan King from Participant Media, Oprah Winfrey and her Harpo Films, Jane Rosenthal and Berry Welsh from Tribeca Productions and DuVernay.
Central Park Five Cast
Netflix provided a major cast update for the four-episode series Central Park Five. Jharrel Jerome will portray both the adult and young Wise. Caleel Harris will play the young McCray while Jovan Adepo was cast as the adult McCray. Chris Chalk will play the adult Salaam to Jerome Ethan Herisse’s portrayal of young Salaam. Freddy Miyares will play the adult Santana. Marquis Rodriguez will play him as a young man. Justin Cunningham was cast as the adult Richardson, to Asante Blackk’s portrayal of young Richardson.
Niecy Nash (Claws) will play Delores Wise, mother of Korey. Aunjanue Ellis (The Birth of a Nation) will play Sharone Salaam, mother of Yusef Salaam; Kylie Bunbury (Pitch) will play Angie Richardson, sister of Kevin Richardson; Marsha Stephanie Blake (Orange is the New Black) will play Linda McCray, mother of Antron McCray; Storm Reid (A Wrinkle in Time) will play Lisa, a friend of Korey Wise.
The first casting announcement included Michael K. Williams, Vera Farmiga, John Leguizamo, and Felicity Huffman.